Otherness. It can be frightening. We humans have a tendency, old as the lizardian mush portion of our brains, to congregate and socialize with those resembling ourselves, shunning outsider; this was a fundamental survival tool for keeping the tribe genetically intact and safe from would-be competition. Marsha is a play about a kind of extreme otherness in our world today.
Julia Thomas, who also co-directed, plays the title role of Marsha, a young girl meandering daily through byways of her country village somewhere in the UK.
Along her way, she encounters several acquaintances and engages them in weird conversations steeped in strained and awkward discomfort. As the play progresses, it becomes apparent that it is her otherness that generates cruelty and revulsion in her not-so-friendly neighbors.
Writer and Co-Director Alan Harris has the skeleton of a horror heartbreaker in this play. With some sharp editing, mixing these themes could be highly intriguing, akin to The Bad Seed but in truth, the a terribly uneven performance frustrated any desire to feel for the character.
There were small issues such as props that failed to fully serve the story– tape recorded sound effects that were too loud and an LED flashlight that was far too bright to be shone repeatedly in the eyes of the audience, but these are easily remedied.
by Alan Harris
at Fort Fringe – Bedroom
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
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In the end, performative issues compromise the show. Thomas needs to compress her work, especially at the top; and she must define her characters clearly enough to be identified as she switches back and forth between them; otherwise, it is difficult to tell which character is talking. Neither of these issues will be solved by speeding up, but by clarifying transitions through action on breath.
Live theatre is the emotional gymnasium where humans come to exercise our empathy in a non-stakes environment, to experience a slice of otherness at no risk to ourselves. A good performance can be an intense workout of our emotional being, and we walk away the better for it. “Marsha” has the potential to challenge our empathy deeply through the story of this complex anti-heroine character, but, in the end, I was not so moved.